Like many of you, I’m a both Star Wars AND a tabletop RPG geek. So when my friend asked if I would like to play in an Edge of the Empire campaign, I couldn’t find enough expletives to describe my desire to join. I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons and a few White Wolf titles, so when I opened the core rulebook, what I discovered was a breath of fresh air to the usual mathematical dice systems.
Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars campaigns are set in the time just after the destruction of the first Death Star. The Empire is in its prime and the Rebel Alliance is starting to gain serious momentum. Currently, there are three main books in the series with multiple standalone campaign manuals. Edge of the Empire focuses on the galaxy’s scum and villainy with tales aimed at mercenaries, smugglers, and bounty hunters. In the past, these characters have always been secondary to the Alliance/Empire conflict. Now they can be the leads in their own epics. The second book is Age of Rebellion, which introduces new classes focused on the Alliance military such as soldiers and pilots. The newest book, Force and Destiny, introduces several Jedi classes. Of course, if you prefer to play a bad guy, it’s just as easy to use these classes to make Imperials and Sith.
What makes Fantasy Flight’s system unique is the narrative dice. Each check consists of a dice pool containing positive dice representing your character’s proficiency, and negative dice representing the difficulty of the challenge. Instead of rolling numbers and adding modifiers, each die has a series of symbols on them:
You assemble your dice pool based on the skill check and difficulty. When you roll the dice, you simply count the number of positives versus negatives. Each Success vs. Failure rolled, and each Advantage vs. Threat rolled, cancel each other out. The leftover symbols determine the outcome and its potency. For example, a roll of has an outcome of one Success and one Threat. This means the check passes, but has a consequence such as getting the attention of the enemy. It’s almost like interpreting runes. This system allows for more flexible interpretation and wastes less time adding up rolls and modifiers. Yes, there are some percentile and damage output rolls, but they’re minimal.
Each character has six basic attributes:
- Brawn – brute strength and toughness
- Agility – dexterity and coordination
- Intellect – level of education and ability to reason
- Cunning – craftiness and cleverness
- Willpower – discipline and mental fortitude
- Presence – charisma and force of personality
All characters begin with 12 total Attribute points, with a minimum of 1 point per attribute. Each species has its own base layout, making some species better suited for certain roles than others. Players can spend experience points while building their characters to raise these stats. However, once the game has started, they can not be raised again until the player makes their way through a talent tree to the Dedication talent. Attributes determine the base number of dice for all rolls. For example, if a character with a Brawn of 2 makes an Average Difficulty Brawn check to see if he can muscle open a door, the dice pool would consist of two Ability dice and two Difficulty dice as seen on the right.
A Skill is anything a character might learn during their lifetime. These include things like knowledge, piloting, social skills, and combat. Players can rolls for any Skill using the Skill’s base Attribute. The player rolls a number of Ability dice equal to the Attribute related to the Skill check as seen above. For each rank in a Skill, a player can upgrade one die from an 8-sided Ability die to a 12-sided Proficiency die. Proficiency dice give the player more chances for success as well as an opportunity for a Triumph. If a player with an Intellect of 2 and one Skill point in Knowledge: Outer Rim wants to find out how much he knows about his destination planet, he upgrades one of his Ability dice to a Proficiency die to increase his chances of success as shown on the right.
Playing The Game
Overall, I really enjoy this system. It’s rich with detail, but not so complex that it turns off newer tabletop gamers. The only downside I’ve found so far is that it can be difficult to create a character if your concept and species don’t fit exactly into a career specialization (a.k.a. the class). Yes, you can spend experience points to acquire additional careers and specialization talents, but it’s really not a mix-and-match kind of system. Otherwise, you will find that playing a Fantasy Flight Star Wars campaign unfolds pretty much like every other tabletop RPG. You form a team and go on adventures, and often times, hilarity usually ensues. The books have an incredible amount of information which really immerses you in the Star Wars universe. And at the core, that’s what we really want. So grab your blaster and board your ship. The galaxy is waiting.
Image credits: Fantasy Flight Games
Photo credits: Kevin Becker